160.Imori Castle Part1

The first ruler, Nagayoshi Miyoshi’s castle

Location and History

Nagayoshi Miyoshi’s Home Base

Imori Castle was located on a 314m high mountain called “Imori-yama Mountain” in Kawachi Province (what is now eastern part of Osaka Prefecture). The mountain was also on the northwest branch of Ikoma Mountains which was the border between Kawachi and Yamato Province (now Nara Prefecture). Several routes ran at the foot of the mountain, and the area around the castle was accessible from Osaka Bay by ships through Fukonoike Pond near the castle in the past. It is uncertain when the castle was first built, but the Kizawa Clan developed the castle around 1530. The castle became the largest mountain castle in the province. Mountain castles were very popular at that time.

The location of Imori Castle and the range of Kawachi Province

Nagayoshi Miyoshi was a great warlord in the middle 16th Century whose power competed with the Shogun, Yoshiteru Ashikaga. He banished the shogun from Kyoto and started his own governance. That’s why he is currently regarded as the first ruler who governed the center of Japan. He did so without the authority of the shogunate. However, some people consider Nobunaga Oda as the first ruler. Nagayoshi was based at the Akutagagawa-san Castle in Settsu Province (now the northern part of Osaka Prefecture) before he defeated the Hatakeyama Clan who owned Kawachi Province and Imori Castle and moved to the castle in 1560.

The portrait of Nagayoshi Miyoshi, owned by Juko-in of Daitokuji Temple (licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)

Stone Walls as Authority

The range of Imori Castle was about 700m from north to south and about 400m from east to west. The castle had a lot of enclosures which were divided into two groups, the northern and southern parts. The northern enclosures were on very narrow ridges and are thought to be used as defensive positions. On the other hand, the southern enclosures were relatively spacious, and it is said that they were used as residences. The slopes on the northern, eastern, and western sides were very steep. The southern slope was gentle, but the route to the castle on this side was very long.

The miniature model of Imori Castle, owned by Daito City History and Folklore Museum

Historians think that the Main Route to the castle was on the eastern side, as visitors could visit the castle through rivers and valleys on this side. There is another reason why the front of the castle faced the east. It was recently discovered that the eastern side of most of the enclosures was covered by stone walls. They were not for buildings, just for supporting the enclosures. This meant that the stone walls were probably used to show visitors the castle’s authority facing the front. It is said that Nobunaga’s Azuchi Castle was the first case for using stone walls in earnest for a castle. However, the case of Imori Castle was nearly 20 years earlier than Azuchi Castle. This may be one more reason for Nagayoshi being called the first ruler.

The remaining stone walls on the eastern side of the mountain

Nobunaga Oda abolished Castle

Nagayoshi governed the Kinki Region and often battled his enemies. He sometimes held poetry parties and even hosted missionaries while he stayed in the castle for a few years. However, he suddenly died in 1564. The Miyoshi Clan still held the castle but had internal troubles. Nobunaga Oda took advantage of the situation and went to Kyoto in 1568. As Nobunaga proceeded with his unification of Japan, he ordered the destruction of the castle in 1575 before the castle was abandoned.

The portrait of Nobunaga Oda, attributed to Soshu Kano, owned by Chokoji Temple (licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)

To be continued in “Imori Castle Part2”

55.千早城~Chihaya Castle

The origin of typical Japanese mountain castles

立地と歴史~Location and History

楠木正成の活躍~Activities of Masashige Kusunoki

Masashige Kusunoki was a great general based in Kawachi Province (what is now the eastern part of Osaka Prefecture) in the 14th century. He first worked under the Kamakura Shogunate, a government body for warriors in the middle ages, but when Emperor Godaigo was against the Shogunate in 1331, he supported the Emperor fighting with the Shogunate in Akasaka Castle. However, the castle was built in a hurry and wasn’t very strong enough to protect against enemies, so Masashige had to run away and disappear. The Emperor was caught by the Shogunate and brought to Okinoshima Island in Japan Sea.

楠木正成肖像画、狩野山楽筆、楠枇庵観音寺蔵~The portrait of Masashige Kusunoki, attributed to Sanraku Kano, owned by Nanpian Kannonji Temple(licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)
後醍醐天皇肖像画、清浄光寺蔵~The portrait of Emperor Godaigo, owned by Shojokoji Temple(licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)

In 1333, Masashige wanted to take revenge, so he started making his new network of castles: Kami-Akasaka, Shimo-Akasaka, and Chihaya. Chihaya Castle was the last one of the network. It was located alongside Chihaya Road connecting Kawachi and Yamato (now Nara Prefecture) Provinces, and
on the way to Mt. Kongosan which was known for the training of Shugen-do, i.e., Japanese mountain asceticism. The castle was also on one peak, surrounded by valleys on all sides.

城の位置~The location of the castle

千早城の模型、千早赤阪村郷土資料館蔵~The miniature model of Chihaya Castle, owned by Chihaya-Akasaka Folk Museum(licensed by Wikiwikiyarou via Wikimedia Commons)

千早城の戦い~Siege of Chihaya

正成と僅か千名の兵士からなる部隊は、千早城に籠城し、幕府の大軍から何回も攻められました。 これは千早城の戦いと呼ばれ、日本で最初の本格的な山城での戦いでした。幕府軍の武士たちはこのような戦いでどう攻撃してよいかわからず、陣地や攻めどころといった戦略や計画もなく、しゃにむに城に突進していきました。正成とその部下たちは、敵と戦うのに大抵は盾や矢を使ったのですが、更には岩、丸太、油と火、煮えた汚物までも使って幕府軍を撃退したのでした。また、夜襲をかけて、敵を更に疲弊させました。この籠城戦は3ヶ月間続きます。
Masashige, with his small army of one thousand soldiers, was besieged in Chihaya Castle, by the massive Shogunate troops several times. It is called Siege of Chihaya, and it is the first big battle to occur in a mountain castle in Japan. The shogunate warriors didn’t know how to attack in such a battle, so they straightaway charged the castle without any strategies or planning, with regards to position or location of attack. Masashige and his army mostly used shields and arrows in order to fight the enemies. In addition, they also used rocks, logs, oil and fire, and even boiled filth to repel the Shogunate. They also delivered night attacks to further tire the enemies. The siege lasted for three months.

千早城合戦図、歌川芳員筆、江戸時代、湊川神社蔵~The illustration of Siege of Chihaya, attributed to Yoshikazu Utagawa, in the Edo Period, owned by Minatogawa Shraine(licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)

During the siege, Emperor Godaigo escaped from the island, and requested all the warriors, even those that backed Shogunate, to support him. Some influential retainer of the Shogunate, such as Takauji Ashikaga and Yoshisada Nitta, took sides with the Emperor. The troops attacking Chihaya heard about it and withdrew. Finally, Masashige won and the Shogunate was destroyed in just 12 days after the Siege of Chihaya ended.

足利尊氏肖像画、浄土寺蔵~The portrait of Takauji Ashikaga, owned by Jodo-ji Temple(licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)

正成と城の最期~End of Masashige and Castle

Emperor Godaigo started Kenmu Restoration, but the kingdom was soon divided into his Southern Court and the Northern Court that Takauji established with another Emperor. Masashige followed Godaigo till the end, but was unfortunately defeated by Takauji in the Battle of Minatogawa, 1336 in Settsu Province (now part of Hyogo Prefecture). Chihaya Castle was kept by Masashige’s descendants, but eventually fell due to the attack of the Northern Court in 1392.

河内千破城図、湊川神社蔵~The illustration of Chihaya Castle, owned by Minatogawa Shrine(licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)


急坂を登る~Climbing Steep Slope

Now, the entrance to the ruins of Chihaya Castle is still the gateway for Mt. Kongosan. You have to climb up over 500 steps of stones along the steep slope. The steps were not there originally, instead they were developed when a shrine was constructed . The trail is partly zigzagged to prevent enemies in the past.

千早城跡入口~The entrance of Chihaya Castle Ruins
石段の急坂~The steep stone steps
曲がりくねっている山道~The zigzagged trail

城の中心部は神社に~Center of Castle becomes Shrine

After about 20 minutes of 150m high climbing, you will reach the Fourth Enclosure which is the roomiest space in the castle. You can go further the route on a saddle of the mountain to the Third Enclosure. The enclosure has the shrine office and the monument of the castle.

第四郭~The Fourth Enclosure
山の鞍部~The saddle part of the mountain
第三郭~The Third Enclosure
城の記念碑~The monument of the castle

Chihaya Shrine that worships Masashige is on the Second Enclosure in at the back of the Third Enclosure. The First Enclosure is also at the back of the Second Enclosure, but it is closed to visitors of the shrine as it is considered the sanctuary. It is thought that a building, like a watchtower, stood on the First Enclosure in the past.

千早神社~Chihaya Shrine
第一郭は立ち入り禁止~The First Enclosure is closed

残っているものはあるか?~Does something original remain?

The side tail goes from the shrine. From the trail, you can look down at something like bounded enclosures. I wonder if they are original or not. If you go back to the saddle between the Third and Fourth Enclosures, you can go down from the mountain using the side pathway to the shrine. One of the valleys’ bottoms has become a forest road. When you look up at the mountain from the road, you can see how steep the slope is, and how well the castle used natural terrain.

腰曲輪のように見えます~They can look like bounded enclosures
自然の断崖~The natural cliff

その後~Later History

Chihaya Castle had been abandoned for a long time. However, after the Meiji Restoration, the situation dramatically changed. Emperor Meiji who was a descendant of the Northern Court decided that the Southern Court was orthodox for some reasons. Masashige, who had been recognized as a great strategist only popular among historians, suddenly transformed into the most famous historical figure. His strategies and ideologies were used to educate all the nations in Japan, which was to be loyal subjects, until World War ll. As a result, Chihaya Shrine was built on the castle ruins in 1879.

皇居外苑にある楠木正成の銅像~The statue of Masashige Kusunoki at Outer Gardens of the Imperial Palace(licensed by David Moore via Wikimedia Commons)

Even now, many old people in Japan think Masashige is just a loyal retainer. On the other hand, some young people even don’t know his name. Historians are recently studying about him as some parts of his personality still remain a mystery. The site has been designated as a National Historic Site since 1934.

私の感想~My Impression

I think that Chihaya Castle is the forerunner of typical mountain castles in Japan, because it used natural hazard at maximum to protect from enemies. Later warriors must have learned a lot from the castle and the battle on it. I am pleased to see that the shrine are is well maintained and Masashige’s name is kept intact .I hope that the shrine will allow visitors to enter the First Enclosure, and that the local government will preserve the ruins really like a historic site to let so that people know more about real Masashige more.

第一郭を見上げる~Looking up the First Enclosure

ここに行くには~How to get There

By car, it takes about 30 minutes away from the Mihara-Mnami IC on Hanwa Expressway. There are several parking lots around the entrance of the castle ruins.
By bus, you can take the Kongo Bus on Chihaya Line bound for Chihaya-Ropeway-Mae or Kongo-Tozanguchi from Tondabayashi Station on Kintetsu Nagano Line, or take the Nankai Bus on Kobuka Line bound for Kongosan-Ropeway-Mae from Kawachi-Nagano Station on Nankai Koya Line or Kintetsu Nagano Line. Get off at the Kongo-Tozanguchi bus stop in both cases.

リンク、参考情報~Links and References

千早城 千早神社、千早赤阪村観光協会(Chihaya-Akasaka Village Tourism Association)
・「日本の城改訂版第103号」デアゴスティーニジャパン(Japanese Book)
・「日本の攻城戦55/柘植久慶」PHP文庫(Japanese Book)